The Republican party has long had a problem with science, from its preference for creationism to its denial of the harms of pollution, but things have gotten far worse as the party has lurched to the right and become, for all practical purposes, the political wing of the oil and gas industry. Jill Lawrence explains why:
The 2016 Republican presidential primaries are already showing signs of turning into a competition to win the title of “candidate most dismissive of science.” As a political strategy, this is as depressing as it is understandable.
There’s little to gain and much to lose for the GOP White House hopeful who goes mainstream on science. Take global warming. Only 13 percent of Republicans in an AP-GfK poll in March said they were extremely or very confident that “the average temperature of the world is rising, mostly because of man-made heat-trapping greenhouse gases.” That compares with nearly 55 percent of Democrats and, according to an analysis last year of studies to date, 97 percent of climate scientists.
Not to make any assumptions about political expedience, but there is — perhaps coincidentally — an exceedingly short list of possible Republican contenders who accept the scientific consensus that global warming is real and driven largely by human activity. Based on statements from the last few years, the only names on it are New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Another dozen or so run the gamut from serious skeptics to outright deniers.
And you can bet that if either Christie or Kasich runs for president in 2016, they’d flip their positions on the matter, just like Newt Gingrich and several others did in 2012. Several of the Republican candidates in the last election were on record as supporting cap and trade, which was originally the Republican alternative to direct regulation, a market-based way to reduce the emission of carbon and other greenhouse gases. All of them denied that there was any need for any such policy as candidates in 2012.
That’s the new orthodoxy in the Republican party — deny that there’s any environmental problems at all. That’s why we hear calls from conservatives, including several potential presidential candidates, to eliminate the EPA entirely, an idea that is sheer madness. It’s all about denying science and denying reality to serve their corporate masters.